In today’s gospel, the mother of James and John approached Jesus for a favor. Like a good mother, she lobbied on behalf of her sons. She asked: “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one on your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
At first glance, she is moved by good intentions, the good of her sons. She asks nothing for herself. She even acknowledges the coming reign of Jesus and falls on knees before the messiah. Sadly, however, as with all the disciples, she failed to understand the mission and identity of Jesus.
Ambition can be a powerful force in people’s lives. Today’s gospel reveals how even the worst ambitions can be masked by what appear to be good intentions. Ambitious people sought to trap Jesus and eventually to put him to death. That same ambition, however, clouded their vision to the point where they saw Jesus as a threat to their power.
The Reign of God, the kingdom, rejects such ambitious power. Jesus tells us what true kingdom values are: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus does indeed invite his disciples – and us — to us to live in power, not the ambitious, self-serving power, but the liberating power of sacrificial love. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom where the power love unites us to live as a community of disciples as servants of the people of God.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.